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Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian poet, diplomat, military commander, and politician, was born in Cairo on 6 October 1839. His family claimed descent from a medieval Mamluk royal line, but his surname (nisba) refers to the district of Ityay al-Barud in Lower Egypt, of which his ancestors had once been tax farmers (multazims). His father, an artillery officer under Muhammad Ali, died in Sudan when al-Barudi was only seven years old. After primary education, al-Barudi entered the Military Training School in Cairo, in 1851, and graduated from it in 1855 with the rank of bash-jawish (sergeant-major). During the reign of the viceroy Saʿid (r. 1854–1863), he served in Istanbul as a diplomat and during this time acquired a lifelong enthusiasm for literature.

In 1863 the new viceroy, Ismaʿil (r. 1863–1879 visited Istanbul and recruited al Barudi as commander of his Viceregal Guard in Cairo with the ...

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David M. Carletta

Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Tobias Bassett, a mulatto, and Susan Bassett of the Shagticoke branch of the Pequot tribe. He graduated with honors from the Connecticut State Normal School in 1853. Two years later he married Eliza Park, with whom he had three sons and two daughters. While he was the principal of a high school in New Haven, Connecticut, Bassett studied for a short time at Yale College. From 1857 to 1869 he was the principal of the Institute for Colored Youth, a Quaker school in Philadelphia that prepared students to become educators. He received high praise from the city's mayor for his work at the institute. During the Civil War, Bassett wrote many appeals to young black men to enlist in the Union Army.

Basset left the Institute for Colored Youth after the Civil War to become the first ...

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Adam W. Green

was the second of three children born to two freed slaves, Eben Tobias, a farmer, and Susan Gregory, a mixed-race Pequot Indian, in Derby, Connecticut. An education proponent and political activist, Bassett became America's first black diplomat when he served as Resident Minister in Haiti for eight years, helping pave the way for those seeking opportunities in international diplomacy and public service.

Along with his mixed race birth and royal lineage that his family claimed from Africa Bassett whose surname came from a generous white family close to his grandfather s former owners also had elected office in his blood His grandfather Tobiah who won his freedom after fighting in the American Revolution had been elected a Black Governor as had Bassett s father Eben The largely nominal honorific was bestowed upon respected men in various locales via Election Days sometimes by a voice vote these Black Governors ...

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Nancy Gordon Heinl

Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on October 16, 1833, the son of Tobias Bassett, a mulatto, and Susan (Gregory) Bassett, a Native American of the Shagticoke branch of the Pequot tribe. Ebenezer attended the Wesleyan Academy at Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and graduated with honors from the Connecticut State Normal School. While principal of a high school in New Haven, Connecticut, he continued his studies at Yale College, where he seems to have been held in wide respect. From 1857 to 1869 Bassett was principal of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, a school founded by Quakers for the education of Colored Youth in school learning and to prepare them to become teachers In addition to his duties as principal Bassett taught mathematics natural sciences and classics he also acted as school librarian The mayor of Philadelphia referred to the school under ...

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Félix Ojeda Reyes

was born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, on 8 April 1827 to Felipe Betances Ponce, of Dominican origin, and María del Carmen Alacán, of Puerto Rican origin, the well-off owners of a sugar plantation called Hacienda Carmen. On 21 April he was baptized and registered by church officials in the Book of Mulattoes. Shortly after his mother’s death on 10 February 1837, Betances’s father sent him to Grisolles, near Toulouse, in the southwest of France. Under the care of the Prévost-Cavallieri family, Betances, always an excellent student, studied at the Collége Royal in Toulouse. In 1848 the year of the revolutions that toppled absolutist supremacy in Europe he entered the College of Medicine at the University of Paris At that historic moment Betances commenced a lifetime of political engagement and activity by participating in the antimonarchist revolution of 24 February which established the Second French Republic Although his ...

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Curtis Jacobs

was born on 3 August 1832 in St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (today, the US Virgin Islands). He was the third of seven children born to Romeo Blyden, a tailor, and Judith Blyden, a teacher, a free black married couple in a Danish colony where the majority of Africans were still enslaved. Members of an integrated congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church, the Blydens moved briefly to Venezuela in 1842, where, in addition to discovering an aptitude for languages, Blyden observed that most of the emancipated Africans in that country were not far removed from chattel slavery.

Wilmot became a student of the Reverend John Knox of the Dutch Reformed Church upon his family’s return to St. Thomas in 1844. Impressed with his academic potential, Knox encouraged Wilmot in 1850 to travel to the United States with a view to gaining admission into the Rutgers Theological College ...

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Tayren Woodard

lawyer, politician, missionary, and diplomat, was born in Ohio to Rebecca and Billy Bowser in 1831, the year of the Nat Turner Revolt in Virginia. To avoid being sold into slavery, the Bowsers, who were free-born black natives of Virginia, left the state soon after the revolt, in which over sixty whites were killed. The Bowser family relocated to Logan County, Ohio. Rebecca, who worked as a house servant, owned about $500 worth of real estate around the time of her death. During this time, her real estate was considered impressive for a free black in Ohio. Shortly thereafter, Billy also died.

At the time Bolding was the only boy and the oldest of four children Bolding had three younger sisters Cristine Mary and Elizabeth All of the Bowser children attended school Although little is known about his early years we do know that Bolding attended school at the ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

longtime U.S.consular officer in Madagascar and France, who declined appointment as U.S. Minister to Liberia, was born in Brunswick, Georgia. He was the son of Margaret Carter and an unnamed father. Around 1892, his mother married J. C. Bryan, a minister who helped raise James, his older brother William Richard Carter and younger sister Maggie, and half-sisters Vernetta and Edna. Four other siblings died in infancy.

James G. Carter was initially educated in the grammar, normal, and industrial schools of Brunswick. With the help of his brother William, a schoolteacher and graduate of Tuskegee Institute, he was then able to enter Tuskegee Institute in the mid-1890s. After graduating from Tuskegee in 1897, Carter entered the tailoring trade; he also served as a letter carrier, notary public, and editor-manager of a small newspaper in Brunswick until 1906 In August of that year ...

Article

VictorHugo Acuña

was born in León, Nicaragua, in 1815, the legitimate son of José Castellón and Juana Sanabria. A political liberal, he was one of the main actors in the Nicaragua civil war of 1854–1855 between the liberals of León and the conservatives of Granada, and in the war against the American filibuster William Walker, who took over Nicaragua in 1855–1857 His father was a fiscal official in the colonial government but according to two of the most important Nicaraguan historians of the nineteenth century Castellón s social background was obscure and humble Contemporaries writing about Castellón during the same period were starkly divided on the question of his racial background As with many other figures identified with the liberal cause their presumed African descent was mocked by political opponents and foreign observers who referred to them as Hottentots and Kaffirs On the contrary historian Jerónimo Pérez who knew Castellón ...

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John Craig Hammond

“I do not set up for being perfect: far from it!” wrote the Kentucky antislavery agitator Cassius Marcellus Clay to the abolitionist John Fee in 1855. “I wish I were,” he continued, but “a good balance sheet of good against evil is all I aspire to!” Judged by his own standards as well as by those of black and white antislavery advocates, Cassius Clay succeeded in fulfilling his ambition, through his battles against the evil of slavery. A former slaveholder and one of the few antislavery leaders to remain in the South after 1830, Clay became something of a hero to northern abolitionists, who appreciated his willingness to challenge slaveholders on their own turf.

Cassius Clay was born in Kentucky s Bluegrass region to the planter Green Clay and his wife Sally in Clermont Clay lived to the age of ninety three and spent much of his life ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

physician and diplomat, was born near Bennettsville, South Carolina, to parents whose names are not recorded, and who may have been slaves or freed slaves. At an early age, he moved with his parents to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he was educated in that city's public schools.

A gifted student, Crossland later graduated from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, before completing his medical studies at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. He practiced medicine and surgery for twelve years in both Missouri and Kingstree, South Carolina, where he also served for a brief period as assistant postmaster. He also served as city physician for several years in St. Joseph.

Crossland also became active in Republican Party politics in Missouri, and by 1901 had become a member at large of that state s Republican central committee He was also elected president of the Negro Republican State League As ...

Article

Floyd Jr. Ogburn

physician and politician, was born near Orangeburg, South Carolina. Born free and the youngest of seven children in a family with German African ancestry, he matured on an Orangeburg plantation, which his father, Darius, had inherited from his German father, who had settled in South Carolina in the early nineteenth century. The Crums owned and used forty-three slaves to farm their plantation, yet the close of the Civil War marked the death of Darius and their fortune.

The dissolution of the family fortune drove Crum's older brothers north in search of employment, but they helped him get an education. He graduated in 1875 from Avery Normal Institute in Charleston, South Carolina, and briefly attended the University of South Carolina shortly thereafter. In 1881 he obtained an MD degree from Howard University, establishing a medical practice in Charleston two years later. After setting up his medical practice Crum married Ellen ...

Article

Thomas M. Leonard

diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Durham, who could almost pass for white, studied in the Philadelphia public schools and graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876.

For five years after leaving high school Durham taught in Delaware and Pennsylvania. In 1881 he entered Towne Scientific School, a branch of the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1886 and a civil engineering degree in 1888. He held several positions during his college career, including reporter for the Philadelphia Times. He excelled as a newspaperman, and his unique abilities eventually led him to the assistant editorship of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin ...

Article

Vernon J. Williams

lawyer and social scientist, was born in Weston Platt County, Missouri, the son of George Ellis, a farmer, and Amanda Jane Trace. George Ellis left home after completing elementary school, primarily because Weston Platt County could not provide him with the education or training he desired. He moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he found greater educational opportunities but increased racial hostilities. As a consequence, he soon moved to Atkinson, Kansas, where he completed high school in 1891. Ellis continued his education at the law school at the University of Kansas, receiving an LLB in 1893. While practicing law Ellis pursued a BA at Kansas; it is not known, however, if he completed the requirements for the degree. While at the University of Kansas he was active in Republican politics and debated in Kansas's McKinley Club.

Ellis moved to New York City in 1897 where ...

Article

David M. Carletta

Anténor Joseph Firmin was born in Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti. He was a gifted child who attended Haiti's premier preparatory schools. After studying law, Firmin became the inspector of schools in Cap-Haïtien. He married Rosa Salnave, daughter of the former president Sylvain Salnave, in 1881. Two years later the government of Haiti sent Firmin to France as a diplomat. He was admitted to the Anthropological Society of Paris and became perhaps the first scholar of African descent to write a systematic work of anthropology.

In 1885 he published The Equality of the Human Races, a response to Count Arthur de Gobineau's four-volume set The Inequality of Human Races and to the racialist anthropology of the nineteenth century. Published between 1853 and 1855 de Gobineau s famous work was the first to assert the racial superiority of Aryan peoples while simultaneously reinforcing ideas of black inferiority Firmin ...

Article

Asselin Charles

was born on 18 October 1850 to a modest family in the historic town of Cap-Haïtien. His father, Pierre Montrévil Firmin, and his mother, Anaise Jean Baptiste, both had humble family roots in the nearby town of Grande Rivière du Nord. Firmin married Marie-Louise Sylvain Salnave, a widow and member of a prominent Cap-Haïtien clan, in 1881. The couple had two children: a daughter, Anna, who died in Paris in 1902, and a son, Eberle, who drowned at sea in 1912 on a trip from Cap-Haïtien to Port-au-Prince.

Firmin completed his secondary schooling in 1867 at the Cap Haïtien Lycée National where he was taught by one of the prominent educators of the day Jules Neff a graduate of the École Normale Supérieure of Paris A gifted student he excelled at the school s traditional French curriculum with its emphasis on the classical humanities In addition to ...

Article

Paul D. Nelson

lawyer and diplomat, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the only child of James and Hattie Francis. Almost nothing of Francis's family and childhood is known, except that his father died before Francis was ten years old. In 1888 he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, then a booming railroad city of about 130,000 with an African American community numbering perhaps 1,500. At age eighteen Francis found work as a messenger in the headquarters of the Northern Pacific Railroad, then became an office boy, a clerk in the legal department, and finally in 1901 chief clerk, probably the highest position attained by any African American in the railroad at that time. The Twin Cities black community considered Francis's position to be a distinguished one and he remained with the railroad for nearly twenty-five years.

From his earliest days in St Paul Francis distinguished himself as a singer and performed frequently ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

physician and diplomat, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the older son of William Henry and Mary Elizabeth (Williams) Furniss. As a child he lived in Jackson, Mississippi, where his father served as assistant secretary of state under Secretary of State James R. Lynch, and later on the staff of the new Alcorn University. His sons were educated in the public schools of Indianapolis, Indiana, where William Furniss became superintendent of special delivery for the U.S. Post Office Department after 1877.

Henry Furniss began his professional studies at the medical department of the University of Indianapolis in 1887, transferring in 1890 to Howard University in Washington, DC, where he worked as a clerk for the U.S. Bureau of the Census to finance his studies. In 1891 he graduated from the Howard medical department, and later received a doctoral degree in pharmacy from Howard (1895 ...

Article

Michael C. Miller

Bancroft Gherardi was born in Jackson, Louisiana, to Donato Gherardi, a Greek instructor, and Jane Bancroft. His uncle, the noted historian George Bancroft, served as secretary of the navy and secured an appointment for Bancroft to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The young man received his first naval appointment on 29 June 1846, launching a career that lasted nearly fifty years.

Gherardi served aboard the USS Ohio during the Mexican-American War and was commissioned a lieutenant in 1855. During the Civil War he was promoted to lieutenant commander (1862) and served in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In 1864 he transferred to the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron and, as commander of the Port Royal, fought with distinction at the battle of Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864 After the war he was promoted to commander and served in a variety ...

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Gloria Grant Roberson

With the support of the Harvard-affiliated educator George Herbert Palmer, Greener participated in a program to expose an African American to a Harvard education. Although poor grades resulted in his repeating his first year, Greener went on to win the Boylston Prize for Oratory in his sophomore year and the inaugural Bowdoin Prize for Research and Writing for his senior dissertation on Irish culture. Greener apparently recognized the advantages of repeating his first year at Harvard, because later, as a professor of mental and moral philosophy at the University of South Carolina, he was instrumental in adding a “subfreshman” class to the curriculum for scholarship students struggling with Latin and Greek.

The only child of Richard Wesley Greener, a seafaring man with an adventurous spirit, and Mary Ann Le Brune, Greener was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania His mother was thrust into single parenthood when her husband failed to ...